Connecting with the Divine

Iris C F Gomes

Alex Rodrigues, who is having his exhibition of paintings titled Christus at Carpe Diem, Majorda, sets himself on a different plane from that of his contemporaries. He gives expression to his artistic prowess through techniques called finger painting, and engraving and embossing (nail art). The extraordinary aspect of his art is that Alex has no formal training. It has been purely talent, initiative, and critique and encouragement from family that have brought him this far.

Alex Rodrigues has always been artistically creative and hardly recalls a time when he has not been doing anything of the kind. It was sketching, drawing and painting for the joy of art rather than with a professional outlook. However, a turning point came when a dance student chanced upon his works under the couch and asked if she could sell them for him, since she appreciated his talent. He agreed to it and from then on art became his career.

Alex was brought up in Mumbai and came to Goa on holiday to stay at the family house in Margao, twice a year or more often, during his childhood. His intrinsic connection with the land associated with picturesque beauty has become more pronouncedly visible with him lingering on up to three months at a time if feasible. ‘Just to sit back and paint and smell the air and soak in the beauty,’ he says.

With degrees in electronic engineering and chemistry, Alex jokes about having something to fall back on if his art career fails at any point. This, however, seems unlikely as Alex has had exhibitions in India as well as in Australia, Germany, Greece, the UK, Austria and Dubai. The group exhibition in Germany in 2010 is of special significance as it concentrated on spreading awareness about human trafficking through art. Alex has been part of camps and workshops in India and abroad. In 2012 he was part of a workshop for special children from Daddy’s Home, Margao.

He talks of his choice of finger painting, ‘When I was planning my first exhibition, I thought and thought what I could do to make my works go a step ahead of a conventional beautiful artwork. Like every artist, I used to use my fingers at times along with the brush when painting. So I decided why not try painting for the whole show with only my fingers. And that’s how it came to be!’ His first finger painted exhibition in Goa was titled The Christ Series (2005).

In finger painting, all other artistic tools are eschewed in favour of one’s fingers. Fingers and nails are used for minute details while the palm is used for larger surfaces. He can even recreate the effects of a palette and brush strokes with just his fingers. Where nail art is concerned, there is an absence of colour as well as other conventional art equipment. Nails are used to bring out the detailed impressions by holding the paper between fingernails.

To use these techniques was a natural enough choice because they are skills Alex has been innately blessed with. He says of the uniqueness of the intricate techniques, ‘When someone buys a piece of my art, I feel really content and happy knowing that I am giving them more than just a beautiful piece of art. It’s also unique and rare. I am personally someone who loves to collect things that are rare and different. There has to be something special about what I collect. And that is what I give in a finger painting. My nail art, I’m not letting out just yet.’

The affinity for Christian Art was but normal for this Catholic boy who has been well acquainted with the religion of his birth by his parents. It was something that was part of his childhood drawing repertoire, influenced by his Catholic upbringing. It was this foundation, daily Mass, and Bible reading that contributed to his Christian themes. He has always sourced the Bible to be clear about a certain story. Now he sometimes uses the internet for the same. He says, ‘No special training. Just my mum getting me out of bed and driving me to church every morning really and reading the bible to me. My parents also got me and my sisters really nice children’s Bibles with coloured pictures. That definitely encouraged creativeness.’

Alex has a high regard for the styles of Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Titian, Albrecht Dürer and Raphael. He says, ‘I think we artists have shaped the course of art over the years; a record created by artists, left behind for the world to see…’

Painting without a fixed, preconceived idea, Alex relies heavily on spontaneity. He puts to canvas whatever comes to his heart and mind at the moment he sits before the canvas. He has painted Jesus in his different moods, roles, etc. He has painted with themes of the Pietà, the Passion of Christ, the Crucifixion, the nativity of Christ, etc. He enjoys painting on varied media, including canvas, paper, wood, boards, walls, bottles, T-shirts and so on. ‘However, I feel wood has a beauty of its own and if it’s available why not.’

The connection of art to the Divine is something quite evident in Alex’s work. He says, ‘There is a connection to the Divine through anything you do because the Divine is everywhere. It’s just about us connecting. The Divine is in us all.’

He refrains from giving advice to aspiring artists since what worked for him may not work for them. He says, ‘Everyone finds their own way. We are all guided by the greatest Shepherd.’